My first trip to the middle east, my first trip to Israel. These are my obvservations.
My first impression was that it is San Diego. Arid, brown, lots of xeriscaping.
Maybe this is not a nice thing to say, but it feels American. That might be part of why it feels like San Diego.
- Road signs are the same shape, color, and font as in the US.
- Barriers along the motorways are quite similar in design
- Lots of English everywhere. I even saw graffiti in English
- The shopping mall I went to had:
- Toys R Us
And yet, not American
They use the metric system for most things. They have Western European electrical outlets and telephones. The road markings that indicate “this lane for Tel Aviv” look more like the European roads than American ones.
I Love Shekels
The currency is so simple. They have shekels. Things are priced in shekels. Unlike Euros, Dollars, Pounds, Francs, or various other currencies, though, you simply have shekels. There’s roughly 5 shekels to the dollar, so you have to deal with some bigger numbers than you would in dollars, pounds or euros. So my meal was 79 shekels instead of $16.00, but you don’t need a decimal place. There’s nothing less than one shekel. You don’t see prices for things as 799.99. Of course they still write prices like 799 instead of 800.
What I love about it is the fact that all the coins I have are meaningful. They have 1 and 5 shekel coins, and notes for 20 on up. No piddly half-a-shekel coins or 1 hundredth of a shekel coins. The 1 euro and 2 euro cent coins, like their 1p and 1 US cent cousins are completely useless. They’re a waste of space. In some Euro countries, they don’t even use the 1 and 2 cent coins. I think it’s Amsterdam where they don’t give you coins for less than 5 euro cents. It’s all just rounded. Israel’s like that and I like it.
It turns out that I was mainly going to nice restaurants and hotels and things. If you do regular-people things like grocery shopping, you can pay in fractions of a shekel.
I Love the Food
I love hummus, tahini, couscous, salads, and all the other delicious stuff there. I have a chance to go there again in the near future and I’m looking forward to it.